Leguminosae: Mimosaceae-Fabaceae (Mimosa-like); Subfamily Mimosoideae
Forms and Subspecies
A variety from the Guianas that was recently described under the name Acacia tenuiflora var. producta Grimes may be a form of this taxonomically uncertain species (Grimes 1992).
Acacia tenuiflora Willd.
Mimosa cabrera Karst.
Mimosa hostilis (Mart.) Benth.
Mimosa jurema nom. nud.
Mimosa nigra Huber nom. nud.
Mimosa tenuefolia L. (misspelling in the literature)
Mimosa tenuiflora Karst.
Ajucá, cabrero (“goatherd”), carbón (“charcoal”), carbonal, espineiro, jurema, jurema negro,249 jurema preta, jurema prêta, tepescahuite, tepescohuite, veuêka, vinho da jurema
The Aztecs already knew of the mimosa tree during pre-Columbian times. The name tepescohuite, which is now common in Mexico, is derived from the Aztec tepus-cuahuitl, “metal tree,” a reference to the tree’s extremely hard wood. The Mexican tree was botanically described in 1810. Only in the past few years was it recognized that this tree is the same species as the Brazilian Mimosa hostilis (Ott 1996b, 11*). The jurema cult, in which drinks made from this Mimosa are consumed, was first described in 1788. Until recently, it was thought that the cult had died out, but it is now experiencing a great renaissance.
The tree grows wild in southern Mexico (it is common in Oaxaca and on the Pacific coast of Chiapas), Central America, Venezuela, and Brazil (especially in the northeast: Minas Gerais, Bahia, Pernambuco). It thrives best in tropical lowlands but can grow at altitudes of up to 1,000 meters (Sánchez León 1987).
Until recently, little was known about methods for cultivating the plant. Initial experiments have demonstrated that it is likely possible to propagate the tree through cuttings.
This mimosa is a bushy tree that can grow as tall as 8 meters. It has pinnate leaves and short, sharp thorns along its branches. The white flowers occur in clusters, and the fruits are small and lanceolate (2 to 4.5 mm wide, 5 to 7 mm long). The pods each contain three or four of the fruits (Sánchez León 1987).
—Dried trunk cortex
—Dried root cortex
Preparation and Dosage
In Brazil, vinho do jurema is sometimes made with passionfruit juice (cf. Passiflora spp.). An ayahuasca analog can be made by combining 9 to 12 g of the dried root cortex with 3 g of Peganum harmala.
In former times, the Pancarú Indians and many Indians of the eastern Amazon region (such as the Karirí, Tusha, and Fulnio) used the root to make jurema drinks (ajucá or veuêka), which could induce shamanic states of consciousness (Gonçalves de Lima 1946). Unfortunately, only very rudimentary information about the exact preparations and the rituals is available. According to the older ethnographic literature (summarized in Schultes and Hofmann 1980, 153 ff.*), the “mysterious drink” gave the shamans fantastic and meaningful dreams and brought on “an enchantment, transporting them to heaven.”
Known in Mexico as tepescohuite, Mimosa tenuiflora is an excellent source of DMT. (Photographed in Chiapas, Mexico)
In Mexico, tepescohuite bark is used to produce numerous preparations for treating wounds and as general tonics.
“Mimosa tenuiflora has become the most important source of DMT for anahuasca [= ayahuasca analogs].”
An old master of ceremonies, wielding a dance rattle decorated with a feather mosaic, would serve a bowlful of the infusion made from jurema roots to all celebrants, who would then see glorious visions of the spirit land, with flowers and birds. They might catch a glimpse of the clashing rocks that destroy souls of the dead journeying to their goal or see the Thunderbird shooting lightning from a huge tuft on his head and producing claps of thunder by running about. (R. H. Lowie, in Schultes and Hofmann 1980, 154*)
The Indian use of jurema decreased significantly during the twentieth century, partly as a result of the destruction of indigenous cultures and partly due to the increasing popularization of ayahuasca and the ayahuasca churches.
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the ritual use of vinho do jurema has been integrated into the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé and macumba cults. It is likely, however, that Mimosa tenuiflora has rarely been used to prepare the vinho do jurema; the more likely source is Pithecolobium diversifolium.
In contemporary Brazil, jurema is ritually consumed in a variety of circles of different ethnic origin (Novaes da Mota 1987).
To date, no evidence of any ritual use of Mimosa tenuiflora in Mexico is known.
Some Afro-Brazilian ayahuasca cults venerate Indian spirits (caboclos) as saints. Among these saints is Cabocla Jurema, who is regarded as the goddess of the forest. She is presumably a personification of Mimosa tenuiflora.
In Mexican folk medicine, the powdered bark of the trunk is used—apparently with great success—to treat burns, inflammations, and wounds (Grether 1988; Sánchez León 1987). The analgesic effects of the powdered bark for the treatment of burns became known throughout the world when the international press reported its successful use in the treatment of victims of two catastrophes, a natural gas explosion in 1982 and an earthquake in 1985, as a result of which the death rate of the burn victims declined significantly (Anton et al. 1993).
In Mexico, the powdered bark, contained in gelatin capsules, is taken as a tonic, often in combination with the ground bark of uña de gato (Uncaria tomentosa). Among the rural Brazilian population, the bark of the trunk also is used as a home remedy for exhaustion and debility.
Indian women in Brazil use the fresh root cortex as an aphrodisiac love magic by rubbing it onto the soles of the feet of the men they desire. Whether this occurs with the knowledge of the men is an open question.
The bark of the trunk has been found to contain several triterpene saponins (mimonosides A, B, and C) as well as steroid saponins (3-O-β-D-glucopyranosyl-campesterol, 3-O-β-D-glucopyranosyl-stigmasterol, 3-O-β-D-glucopyranosyl-β-sitosterol) that are clearly bioactive (Jiang, Beck, et al. 1991; Jiang, Weniger, et al. 1991b; Lara Ochoa and Marquez Alonso 1996, 99*). Also present are lupeol, campesterol, stigmasterol, and β-sitosterol. The bark contains large amounts of calcium oxalate crystals and a great deal of starch and tannins (Anton et al. 1993), as well as small quantities of alkaloids, of which N,N-DMT, 5-hydroxytryptamine, and β-carbolines have been identified (Lara Ochoa and Marquez Alonso 1996, 99*; Meckes-Lozoya et al. 1990). New chalcones have been detected in the bark and were named kukulkanins, after the Mayan deity Kukulcan (“feathered serpent”) (Dominguez et al. 1989).
Recent studies of the Mexican root cortex, which is rich in alkaloids, have yielded sensational results. The dried root cortex contains approximately 1% N,N-DMT. The root bark of Brazilian plants has been found to contain 0.57% N,NDMT (Farnsworth 1968, 1088*; Pachter et al. 1959*; Schultes and Hofmann 1980*).
When spread onto burns, the powdered trunk bark produces analgesic effects that last for two to three hours and clearly shortens the regeneration period of the epidermis. The bark appears to have a stimulating effect on the immune system (Anton et al. 1993).
If the ethnographic literature is accurate, then a decoction of the root produces psychedelic effects when ingested orally. No information is available as to whether the Indians also use MAO-inhibiting additives in such cases. But if the root cortex does contain β-carbolines, then the tea could indeed be orally efficacious. In modern contexts, the only additive that has been observed being used is passionfruit juice (see Passiflora spp.). The oral efficacy of a decoction of the root cortex presumably is increased by the addition of the passionfruit juice, which allegedly has MAO-inhibiting properties.
I smoked 1 g of dried, coarsely chopped Mexican root cortex (corresponding to approximately 100 mg of N,N-DMT) in a pipe. As it was being lit, the smoke immediately emitted an almost overly obvious characteristic DMT scent. However, I felt only very mild DMT effects. It is possible that a bark extract (cold-water decoction!) concentrated by evaporation may be sufficiently concentrated to produce good DMT effects.
Commercial Forms and Regulations
In Mexico, tepescohuite is available as dried bark and as powdered bark in markets, drugstores, and natural foods stores. It is unclear whether tepescohuite may be imported into Europe. Because of the presence of the alkaloids, it was not allowed to be approved for medicinal use in Europe (cf. Anton et al. 1993, 156).
See also the entries for Mimosa spp., ayahuasca analogs, and N,N-DMT.
Anton, R., Y. Jiang, B. Weniger, J. P. Beck, and L. Rivier. 1993. Pharmacognosy of Mimosa tenuiflora (Willd.) Poiret. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 38:153–57.
Dominguez, Xorge A., Sergio Garcia G., Howard J. Williams, Claudio Ortiz, A. Ian Scott, and Joseph H. Reibenspies. 1989. Kukulkanins A and B, new chalcones from Mimosa tenuefolia. Journal of Natural Products 52 (4): 864–67.
Gonçalves de Lima, Oswaldo. 1946. Observações sôbre o ‘vinho da Jurema’ utilizado pelos índios Pancurú de Tacaratú (Pernambuco). Arquivos do Instituto de Pesquisas Agronomicas 4:45–80.
Grether, R. 1988. Note on the identity of tepescohuite in Mexico. Boletín de la Sociedad Botanica de México 48:151.
Grimes, James W. 1992. Description of Acacia tenuifolia var. producta (Leguminosae, Mimosoideae), a new variety from the Guianas, and discussion of the typification of the species. Brittonia 44 (2): 266–69.
Jiang, Y., J. P. Beck, L. Italiano, M. Haag, and R. Anton. 1991. Biological effects of the saponins from Mimosa tenuiflora on fibroblast cells in culture. Planta Medica 57 suppl. (2): A38.
Jiang, Y., B. Weniger, G. Massiot, C. Lavaud, and R. Anton. 1991. Saponins from the bark of Mimosa tenuiflora. Planta Medica 57 suppl. (2): A38–39.
Meckes-Lozoya, M., et al. 1990. Dimethyltryptamine alkaloids in Mimosa tenuiflora bark (tepescohuite). Arch. Invest. Med. 1990:175–77.
Novaes da Mota, Clairice. 1987. As jurema told us: Kariki shoko and shoco modo of utilization of medicinal plants in the context of modern northeastern Brazil. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press. (UMI microfilm order no. 8717395.)
Sánchez León, Victor. 1987. El tepescohuite. Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas: Instituto de Historia Natural. (Plantas de Chiapas—Yashté-1.)
Leguminosae: Mimosaceae-Fabaceae (Mimosa-like); Subfamily Mimosoideae
The family is composed of some five hundred species, the majority of which occur in South America. They require a tropical or subtropical climate (Schultes and Raffauf 1990, 246*). Mimosa species are often confused with acacias (see Acacia spp.) and with Anadenanthera peregrina and Anadenanthera colubrina.
Many mimosas in Central and South America, Australia, and Oceania contain DMT and other tryptamines. This copperplate engraving from Sibly’s appendix to Culpeper’s herbal associates the (psychoactive) mimosas with the (psychoactive) mandrake (bottom left).
Mimosa pudica L.—sensitive mimosa
It is possible that the well-known sensitive mimosa, whose leaves immediately fold together when touched, has a certain importance as a psychoactive substance. In Amazonia, where the plant is known as chami, it is made into a tea for treating sleep disorders (Duke and Vasquez 1994*). In Belize (Arvigo and Balick 1994, 215*) and on the Caribbean island of La Réunion, the stalks, leaves, and roots are used as sedative and sleeping agents. In Brazil, the plant is called jurema, while the variety acerba Benth. is known as jurema branca (cf. Mimosa tenuiflora, Pithecellobium spp.). Both forms are used as ingredients in the initiatory drink of the Afro-American Candomblé cult (see madzoka medicine).
The plant is known as punyo-sisa in Quechuan. Its leaves are placed in the pillows of old people and children so that they will sleep better (Schultes 1983, 261*). In the Amazon region, women soak the leaves in the juice pressed from the roots and smear the resulting juice between their breasts and on the soles of their feet. They claim that this gives them “increased sexual power” (Gottlieb 1974, 66*).
In the Philippines, Mimosa pudica is regarded as an aphrodisiac for frigid women. They pick and boil the leaves. The leaves fold together when picked and open up again when boiled. The opened leaf is a symbol for the vagina when it is open for sexual activity.
In India, the leaves are chewed and the resulting mush is spread onto fresh wounds to stop bleeding (Bhandary et al. 1995, 154*).
The plant contains norepinephrine (Schultes and Raffauf 1990, 246*). The narcotic effects are thought to be due to the alkaloid mimosine (Wong 1976, 123*). The aerial parts of the plant contain two C-glycosylflavones: 2”-O-rhamnosylorientine and 2”-O-rhamnosylisoorientine (Englert et al. 1994). The root contains tannin (Wong 1976, 123*).
The delicate and modest sensitive mimosa (Mimosa pudica) folds its pinnate leaves together at the slightest touch.
The seeds of Mimosa scabrella, a DMT-containing species.
Mimosa scabrella Benth.—bracaatinga
The bark of this small tree contains N,N-DMT, MMT, N-formyl-MMT, and 2-methyl-1,2,3,4-tetrahydro-β-carboline—i.e., both psychedelic tryptamines and MAO-inhibiting β-carbolines. The bark presumably is suitable for making ayahuasca analogs. No traditional psychoactive use is known.
Mimosa verrucosa Benth.
This species is rumored to be psychoactive or hallucinogenic (Schultes and Farnsworth 1982, 188*). However, there are no chemical analyses of or detailed reports about any possible use of the plant.
There appears to be a number of mimosas that may be of chemical interest and may possibly be suitable as sources of N,N-DMT for other ayahuasca analogs. There also appears to be a variety of species that are smoked as marijuana substitutes (cf. Cannabis indica) in Central America.
See also the entries for Mimosa tenuiflora, ayahuasca analogs, β-carbolines, and N,N-DMT.
Englert, Jürgen, Yulin Jiang, Pierre Cabalion, Ali Oulad-Ali, and Robert Anton. 1994. C-glycosylflavones from aerial parts of Mimosa pudica. Planta Medica 60:194.